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Book Review: The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

Title: The Turncoat
Author: Donna Thorland
Year: 2013
Pages: 394
Dates Read: March 27 – April 1, 2017
Format: Kindle
Genres: HF, R, W
Rating: ★★★★
Summary: A young Quaker woman, Kate Grey, becomes unexpectedly entangled with the espionage of the American War for Independence and, to her even greater surprise, the enemy.

Favorite Quotes:

“Nothing was beyond the grasp of an intelligent woman.”

“They formed an intimate still life, her ornaments lying beside his regalia.”

“It was not important to her, where she had come from.  Only what she had become.”

Note: Being the little Hamilton fangirl that I am, I couldn’t help but squeal in delight when I read this line: “Beside him [General Washington], a slender, fair-haired youth sat copying orders.”  That’s our good old bastard, orphan, and son of a whore.

Review: So I watched the first episode of Turn last week (Honestly, it’s a shame I’d never watched it before.  I mean, some parts of it are literally filmed less than an hour from my house, for Pete’s sake!).  But anyway, that inspired me to find some fiction set during this time, which proved to be more difficult than it should be, as this is a very intriguing and important time in history.  This book was a happy little find, and I intend to continue with the Renegades of the Revolution series in the near future.

Who doesn’t love a good star-crossed romance?  I have to say that this book delivers.  What I especially loved about this couple, Kate Grey and Peter Tremayne, is that, while they care for each other, they also understand each other.  They do not blame one another for helping their respective sides in the war: Kate on the American side, Peter on the British.  They don’t stop each other from doing their duties, either.  Peter certainly does not start out as a likable character, but he earns his place as one.  Kate doesn’t always make the best decisions, but you can at least understand them.  These are both good characterizations in my opinion.

Other than that, I don’t have many thoughts to express about this book, beyond the general “I liked it” and the fact that I put aside nearly everything else to read it.  I do, however, want to address an issue I’ve seen in quite a few others’ reviews of the novel.

I’ve read some reviews in which people say that Kate’s transformation from a sweet Quaker girl to a “hussy” is unbelievable.  First off, calling her a “hussy” discredits the argument, especially when the men in the novel aren’t exactly what you could call “chaste.”  Secondly, I grew up in a highly religious, fundamentalist school.  I did not turn out the same way that many of my friends at school did.  Not only do outside influences affect how we turn out as individuals, but, as Virginia Woolf put it, “there is no denying the wild horse in us.”  I believe that we are inherently ourselves; that is, while our environments and situations definitely influence who we become, there are certain aspects of ourselves as individuals that are just us.  For instance, I obviously love books.  But I can’t point to anyone or anything that led to this.  I don’t recall the books my parents read to me as a child.  I don’t remember any of my teachers’ having a particular impact on my reading.  It just happened.  I reached for books myself.   I believe it is the same way with Kate.  She put on a façade in order to spy for the Americans.  She put on a performance.  And, by the way, nearly everything in life is a kind of performance.  We act differently when we are with our friends versus when we are with our bosses at work, for example.  Also, to say that Kate could not have taken on this role simply because she was raised as a Quaker is a narrow view because it implies that she could not be an individual person with her own thoughts and opinions about the world, despite whatever she was taught.  Thorland did a good job displaying Kate’s inner battle between her limited view of the world as a Quaker and her newfound role in the dangerous game of espionage in war.

Another Note: Some people seem to think that there is some historical inaccuracy in the novel when one of the characters shoots a gun.  For some reason, a few readers thought that it was a repeating pistol, meaning that you could shoot it more than once without reloading.  But they are just wrong.  Not only have I read the scene, which disproved this claim to me, but I actually had a conversation on Twitter with the author, and she assured me that this is not the case.

(Side note: How wild is it that she actually replied to my tweet?!  But I’m glad she did because I was feeling uncertain of starting the novel beforehand, and what an unfortunate loss that would have been.)


You can find this in print at The Book Depository, on the Kindle at Amazon, or at your local library. You can read more about it and find similar books on Goodreads.

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